ATHENS — Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett is keeping things simple by design, aware a chance of a lifetime is less than a week away, but unwilling to let that alter his approach to a game he has played all of his life.
“I’m just treating it as a football game,” Bennett said on his Monday CFP Championship Zoom call. “Do I know that means a lot to a lot of people? Yes. Am I trying to play some kind of savior by winning a national championship for millions of people? No. I don’t think that’s my job.
“My job is to go out there and throw completions to very talented people we have on this team. And I think it’s as simple as that.”
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The Bulldogs (13-1) will play Alabama (13-1) at 8 p.m. next Monday at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis looking to win the program’s first national championship since 1980.
Bennett has been a part of all four of Coach Kirby Smart’s losses to the Crimson Tide, though he didn’t play in the first two meetings.
The former walk-on turned junior college quarterback turned transfer has started each of the past two games for Georgia against Alabama, losing by counts of 41-24 each time in Tuscaloosa (2020) and in Atlanta in the SEC Championship Game on Dec. 4.
“Yes, I know it means a lot to a lot of people,” Bennett said. “Is it just another game? No, I’m not silly. But I don’t think for 20-year-old kids you can put that kind of pressure on yourself because you might go crazy.
“I’m just treating it as another game and I’m preparing my butt off, and everybody on this team is. But the reason we’re doing that, is because we respect the heck out of Alabama and the team they are. And we know we’ll have to give it our best shot to win this game.”
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Bennett, in particular, is in the spotlight as he goes head-to-head with Tide Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Bryce Young.
Young’s ability to generate offense against Georgia’s celebrated defense was key as Bennett and the Bulldogs’ offense was unable to keep pace.
The added pressure and responsibility in determining the outcome is part of the quarterback position.
But beyond that, Bennett has been challenged in each of Georgia’s past two losses to the Crimson Tide.
The 2020 version of Bennett threw three interceptions and was unable to score any second-half points after taking a 24-20 lead into halftime, falling victim to Nick Saban’s coaching adjustments.
“Like I said after the game, I thought I played all right in the SEC Championship Game,” Bennett said. “I made a few mistakes that you can’t do against a good team. But I also made some really good throws, good decisions. So my main focus going into the Michigan game was cleaning up on the mistakes and keep doing what I had been doing well.
“There was no personal doubt. I knew what I had to do.”
And Bennett did it, winning Orange Bowl MVP honors after engineering five scoring drives to topen the game as Georgia took a 27-3 halftime lead en route to a 34-11 win.
Bennett believes he knows what he’ll need to do for Georgia to beat Alabama, too.
Both teams will have their adjustments and wrinkles, Bennett concedes, but at the end of the day it’s still the same Crimson Tide football team and the same game of football.
“When the play starts, I throw it to who’s open,” Bennett said, sharing there’s no plan to feed the ball to certain players. “There are certain times when it’s man-to-man, and it’s matchups -- when you think have you the matchup you want, then you go there.”
As for Saban’s ability to scheme up new things, Bennett’s not overthinking it.
“Are you going to outsmart yourself? ….. No, we are not,” Bennett said. “We’re going to prepare with what they’ve put on tape….
“They’re not going to change up and go all Arkansas on us. They’re not going to do that. They’re going to be Alabama, and we’re going to be Georgia. And we’re going to see who executes better. And if there is a wrinkle come Monday night from either side, then whoever adjusts best to that will win the football game.”
For now, Bennett says, that’s all it is to him, just a football game.
How Georgia quarterbacks have fared against Alabama coach Nick Saban
2021: 29-48, 340, 3 TDs, 2 interceptions, loss 41-24
2020: 18-40, 269, 2 TDs, 3 interceptions, loss 41-24
2018: 25-39, 301, 3 TDs, 0 interceptions, loss 35-28
2017: 16-32, 232 1 TD, 2 interceptions, loss 26-23 OT
2015: 10-24, 86 yards, 0 TDs, 1 Interception, loss 38-10
2012: 18-33, 265 yards 1 TD, 1 Interception, loss 32-28
2008: 24-42, 274, 2 TDs, 1 interception, loss 41-30
2007: 19-35, 224, 2 TDs, 2 Interceptions, won 26-23, OT